Ahead of the European Summit of June (28-29), leading Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) joined a broad coalition of organisations, including ECC, warning European leaders to act urgently to prevent Europe from a health crisis.
For the first time 9 MEPs, 65 leading trade unions, civil society organisations, health organisations, and industry associations have united in an open letter calling on European leaders to stop cutting essential health and welfare systems and focus on ordinary people living in Europe coping with the dire impact of a financial crisis of which they are the first victims.
The toll on physical and mental health is becoming unbearable, and health systems are at breaking point. The coalition is led by the European Public Health Alliance, whose recent briefing note summarises the evidence of the devastating impact of the financial crisis on human health. The alarming rise of suicides, mental health problems, rates of infectious disease are warning signs that current policies are hurtling Europe in a dangerous direction.
For millions of people living in Europe, these last few years have been devastating in a way few had imagined Europe would face again. Rising levels of unemployment, high levels of household debt and cuts to public services have left many people desperate and in need of support. The current indiscriminate cuts to social support and healthcare not only threatens the fundamentals right of access to care, it also undermines the core values at the heart of the European vision and the functioning of our democracies.
“We need a long-term strategy. What’s the point in having social protections during the good times but then taking away the safety net during the tough times? Our happiness and health cannot be solely reliant on the will of the markets, or the performance of the banks,” said Glenis Willmott, British MEP, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.
“In Spain, health is becoming a commodity instead of a right,” added Alejandro Cercas, Spanish MEP, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.
European leaders must realise that, cutting spending on essential services such as health, particularly in primary care and early intervention, is a false economy. It will drive up long term costs, leading to the re-emergence of communicable diseases and put the burden on those people who can afford it least. The lessons learned from the crises of the past is to keep supporting people through the hard times, reform smartly and ensure you have a healthy population that can pick up when the economy improves.
The joint letter concludes that “at this decisive time the public health community and people living in Europe look for courageous leadership from Heads of States and Government to take action on prioritising and championing the health of people, not sacrificing health for short term financial gains.”